Taking multiple images at different exposures gives us the oportunity to merge them together to make a single image where we can see in the shadows as well as the highlights. You may think this is just for third party software of Photoshop, but its available in Photoshop Elements too!
In this tutorial I’ve used three exposures at +1, 0 and -1 stop.
Step 1 Open Images
Open your images in Elements by going to File > Open. If you took the photos in RAW they’ll open in the ACR window first, just click Open Image. They’ll appear in the photo bin. Click the first one and pressing Shift click the last image. This selects all images.
Step 2: Photomerge Exposure
Photoshop Elements goes ahead and combines the images into a new one taking the shadows from the lightest, highlights from the darkest and the mid tones from the ‘correctly’ exposed image. Once it’s done this it’ll go ahead and display the new image in a new window.
Step 3: Refine The Image
With the option of Smart Blending selected you have three sliders to adjust the tones in your image; Highlight, Shadows and Saturation. Some minor tweaks might be good here but remember this doesn’t have to be the final image, we can do more adjustments if we wish. Click Done.
Step 4: Back In Photoshop Elements
In the Levels we can adjust the image with a little more finesse. Every image will be different but for me here I’ll move the right hand slider to bring down the Hightlights and then balence it with the midtone slider. The left slider affects the shadows, I’ll leave that.
Step 5: Explore Layers
Make sure you’re in Expert mode at the top of the screen, it should be called ‘Normal’ really. Down the bottom of the screen click the Layers button. This brings up a Layers panel. In it you’ll see two layers, our original image and the new one we’ve created.
Step 6: Experiment – No pixels are being harmed
Because we’re working in layers we can get creative. Here I’m trying some Blending Modes, (the way one layer reacts with the layer below it). I like Multiply, but I’m not sure I’ll keep it. Thats the beauty though, we’ve done everything non destructively so we can always go back.
For my final image I added some black to white gradients on a separate layer and used the Soft Light Blend mode.
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